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Much Ado About Nothing

My cheerful socks and my recovering knee.

For the past six months, I’ve been doing nothing.

I didn’t work on my magnum opus. I didn’t master the art of French cooking. And I didn’t clean my computer screen, which, I’m just noticing now, is disgusting.

Nope. I did nothing. Bubkis. Zip. Nada. Zilch. A big fat goose egg.

I had my left knee replaced in September and my right one in January. For most of the past six months, I’ve been on my couch with my legs elevated on a cushioned wedge, an ice pack wrapped around one knee or the other, staring at my brightly colored socks.

My cheerful sock collection got me through my recovery. It gave me joy to gaze upon my colorful striped, polka dots, butterflies, happy faces, or argyle socks as they dangled in the air while my legs were elevated to relieve the swelling. The butterflies were a nice contrast to my dreary sweatpants.

Ah, sweatpants. We learned during the COVID lockdown that hard pants are unnecessary. Except I didn’t learn. I spent my quarantine in my most comfortable jeans because my sweatpants don’t have pockets and I like to pocket my phone to count my steps. I could’ve bought a watch for that, but why suffer with it tightly strapped to my wrist just so I can wear soft pants? Anyway, watches were superfluous during the pandemic because time had no meaning.

When my knee swelled to the size of a Nerf basketball, I rethought the sweatpants. My inflamed knee needed a more forgiving fabric. And I was in too much pain to count steps.

I wasn’t completely doing nothing. I had a television, a phone, and my smudged computer. I wasn’t a hermit in a cave. I didn’t take a vow of silence.

I don’t know how to take a vow of silence. Mr. Hockey sometimes wishes I would.

Here’s what I did: I went to physical therapy and exercised my knees at home. I wrote a few columns. Don’t tell my editor, but I was hopped-up on pain medication when I wrote my last one. I think it was the better for it. So much so, I’m considering entering the Hunter S. Thompson phase of my writing career.

Here’s what I didn’t do: I didn’t change a light bulb. I didn’t clean out the pantry. I didn’t take down the Christmas tree. Yep, that tree was up until late February. It was artificial so we didn’t worry about needles everywhere, which was helpful because I certainly didn’t vacuum.

Out of necessity and inability, I had to let things go. I couldn’t be the busy person I usually am, checking my to-do list, thinking about my deadlines, multitasking, or determining whether I should do laundry or if I have enough underwear to get me through the week.

The answer to that last conundrum is usually the laundry can wait. I have lots of underwear. Unless I’ve been traveling, in which case, I pack three or four pairs of knickers for each day. As every woman of a certain age does.

Psst! Male readers: Women pack a lot of undies because we have weakened bladders due to childbearing and to neglecting our pelvic floor exercises. A sneeze or giggle could equal disaster. We don’t feel safe unless we travel with many pairs, even though we usually only wear one pair per day at home. It’s girl math.

To paraphrase singer/songwriter John Mayer, our bodies are wonderlands.

Wow. I’ve really digressed. And I’m not even on the pain meds right now!

Or am I?

The point is, because recovering from knee replacements is a big undertaking, it was liberating to not have to worry about my household chores. It was pleasant to binge-watch Jack Reacher, guilt free.

And it felt refreshing to be a little bored. To lie on the couch, feel the ice pack’s coolness seep into my fiery knee, listen to my house’s various hums and buzzes – and behold my pink pineapple socks.

Except I don’t own pink pineapple socks. Shoot. I might have been hallucinating.

Lately there have been a spate of articles and books about the benefits of being bored. They were too tedious to read, but I did listen to a podcast and watch a 15-minute TED talk. The gist was that boredom lets our minds wander and reboot. It heightens our imaginations and creativity. Mental breaks help us to do things better.

For instance, I’ve spent the past six months chilling – and now you’re reading this creative tour de force.

I acknowledge that I’m incredibly fortunate. I have resources that allowed me to loaf for the past six months. Not everyone has that ability. But the TED talk also asserted that even small breaks from our modern, busy lives helps our brains reboot. Walks, meditation, or spending idle time in bed can be restorative.

Fun fact: The Scots have a term for spending idle time in bed. They call it “hurkle-durkling.” Maybe they should have hurkle-durkled a little longer on the day they invented haggis.

By the way, I’m feeling much better. Thanks for asking.

I’m back to multitasking. I just returned from a trip and I’m washing a lot of unworn underwear as I write this.

Unfortunately, even with my extended, restorative hurkle-durkle, I will never master the art of French cooking.

But I did put “clean computer” on my to-do list.


Published on March 21, 2024 in The East Hampton Press.

Photo by ME!!

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